Jay-Z's 25 Best Guest Verses on Remixes

It's always an event when Hov contributes to the new version of a peer's track.

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Complex Original

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Diddy may have invented the remix (or, at least, likes to take credit for inventing it), but if there's one guy you want spitting bars on your remix, it's Jay-Z. Yesterday, we finally got to hear the remix to Kendrick Lamar's "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe," which Jigga was generous enough to hop on, blessing young K-Dot with one of rap's most coveted co-signs. Still, as the artwork for the song (which finds a young Kobe playing against an aging Jordan) suggests, there's more to the remix than just Hov thinking Kendrick had a dope beat worth flipping. 

Jay's history of remixes is just as diverse as his own catalog. He doesn't always hop on the latest hit ("Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" isn't even a single), he's more selective, often choosing songs with other sorts of impact and significance—and if they don't have either, his mere presence will give them some. Inspired by his latest verse, we took a look back at Jay-Z's 25 Best Guest Verses on Remixes and found underground anthems, crossover hits, favors for friends, and, straight up sonnings of the "new hot rapper." Please, don't throw rocks at the throne.

Written by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo), Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin), and Rob Kenner (@boomshots)

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25. Ja Rule's "Holla Holla" Remix (1999)

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Best Line: "We taking over soldier, told ya, "It's murda'"

This is indicative of a time when Jay-Z and Ja Rule were very close. Ja Rule was introduced to the world a year earlier on Jay's hit, "Can I Get A..." and it seemed like Ja Rule was returning the favor, giving Hov some time to shine on the remix to his first hit. Jay's verse is beyond short, and noticeably devoid of much substance, but it mattered in spite of that. It was huge co-sign of an emerging star, furthering their chemistry as a bankable team. It's too bad that the Murder Inc. supergroup with DMX didn't pan out. —Ernest Baker

24. Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" Remix (2007)

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Best Line: "Six pair of kicks is my definition of 12 steps"

Jay-Z rapping on an Amy Winehouse remix was a way of rubbing his transcendece of all boundaries in everyone's faces. Every rapper doesn't get that opportunity. The song is a little awkward, just because, "Rehab" isn't really meant to be rapped on, but Jay makes the most of it, and keeps the "my balling and being successful is akin to substance addiction" metaphor going the entire verse. That alone makes you at least want to give him a nod for putting some thought into the appearance. With his turn on "Rehab," Jay does justice to the few ranks of rappers who worked with Winehouse before she passed. Word to Nas and Ghostface. —Ernest Baker

23. Young Jeezy's "Put On" Remix (2008)

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22. Kanye West's "Power" Remix (2010)

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21. M.I.A.'s "XXXO" Remix (2010)

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Best Line: "This is more like pushing that white rock/When the world try to put you in a tight spot"

Long before M.I.A. signed with Roc Nation, Jay jumped on this sweetly seductive song about a guy who's tweeting her like Tweety Bird on her iPhone, but unfortunately he wants her to be somebody who she's really not. Still the way this Brit Asian bombshell enunciates the emoticons in the hook would keep hope alive in anybody's heart. Jay doesn't get mixed up in all that emotional shit. Nor does he use his "politically correct flow." (When does he ever?) Nope, his verse is more like letting the Tec blow. As for Maya, you already know how the story goes...she's on to the next one. —Rob Kenner

20. Sade's "The Moon and the Sky" Remix (2011)

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Best Line: "As God as my witness, timing was my mistress/I guess it's in the stars for me to love you from a distance"

Jay-Z rapping on a Sade remix is semi-legendary in itself, but it wasn't a fluff piece that people felt like they had to fuck with just because, either. Sade had released her first album in 10 years, it was getting a reasonably positive reception, and Hov went and hopped on one of the hardest tracks on there—the intro—and laced it with some rare emo bars. It's just not everyday that you hear Jay talking about lost love and sensitive stuff that's the norm on a Drake album, who, coincidentally, has expressed multiple times that he wants to work with Sade. It's okay, Drake, Jay beat Kanye to Coldplay, too. Gotta keep these collab dreams quiet. —Ernest Baker

19. Mavado's "On the Rock" Remix (2008)

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18. Young Jeezy's "My President Is Black" Remix (2009)

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Best Line: "My president is black, in fact, he's half white/So even in a racist's mind, he's half right"

It was Obama's inaugaration weekend in D.C. Jay-Z was at Love nightclub with Young Jeezy, debuting his verse on Jeezy's "My President Is Black" remix, because Jay-Z does perfectly thought out things like that. It's a cool verse, too, but more significant for its impeccable timing than it's awe-inspiring lyricism. Not everything has to be the pinnacle of rappity-rap either. Yes, we hold Jay-Z to a higher bar, and a verse this simple wouldn't fly on a lot of songs, but it was "My President Is Black," on inauguration weekend, in the nation's capital—so it did. —Ernest Baker

17. 50 Cent's "I Get Money" Remix (2007)

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Best Line: "Hurry up, kill me/I'm already the G.O.A.T. next stop is the billy"

Eight years after rapping, "I'm about a dollar, what the fuck is 50 Cent," Jay-Z was on a "(Forbes 1, 2, 3)" remix of 50's hit single, "I Get Money." The verse was your standard fare "I'm so rich" Jay approach, but we know by know that that never negates the validity of his material. It was a quick gaze into the psyche of an individual who'd just sold his stake in Rocawear for a staggering $235 million, and it needed to be nothing more. —Ernest Baker

16. DJ Khaled's "Go Hard" Remix (2008)

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Best Line: "On dark nights, I'm like Heath Ledger/Even if I overdose on drugs, motherfuckers can't kill my buzz"

By this point in his career, Jay already had a huge catalog—so much so that he could get self-referential. Younger fans might hear Jay's bars and take them at face value, but ardent listeners can't hear lines like, "Put some more beat on that joint,"withut getting flashbacks to "Reservoir Dogs" or hear "Fuck you, pay me," without thinking a younger, brasher Jay-Z scoffing at label heads who asked him to freestyle. There's also the ultimate backhanded compliment at Kanye, when he admits 'Ye goes super hard, then claims he's gonna go just as hard, but then lightly sons him with the "baby bro" tag. Damn. —Insanul Ahmed

15. Kendrick Lamar's "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" Remix (2013)

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Best Line: "Sittin' next to Hillary smelling like dank/Presidental pardon, name one nigga out there harder than him"

Things learned from Jay-Z's "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" verse: he hangs out in the White House like it's his own home, sits next to Hillary Clinton reeking of marijuana, and there's no rapper working more accomplished than him. Hov's output has been limited since his foray into fatherhood, but it's moments like this that serve as a reminder that he never really goes anywhere, even when you don't hear him. Like Kendrick says on his closing verse, "You'll never be Jay." —Ernest Baker

14. Another Level's "Be Alone No More" Remix (1998)

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Best Line: "Swear to God, thought I'd never ever say this shit/You an honorary member of the greatest clique"

Does anyone even remember this song? You should, because it quietly contains one of gem of a Jay-Z verse. He goes on about how the bachelor life is overrated and why he's looking to settle down, but never loses his cool. He's skipping the club in favor of a low-profile date spot, and he's not apologizing for it. Even Jigga, in 1998, no less, knew there was more to life to getting jiggy with it. —Ernest Baker

13. Juvenile's "Ha" Remix (1998)

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Best Line: "You better get it back, or sleep where the river's at/They send shots through your fitted cap"

Jay-Z borrows Juvenile's flow on the original for his own turn on the second-person narrative style. "Now you stuck in your house, you gotta peep the remix," he begins, and thus, we all do. It was a huge departure from his work at the time, and people were torn on how to receive it, but the fact remains: The "Ha" remix was a big moment. It was huge co-sign for the South from Jay-Z, who, at the time, was the most popular rapper out, largely due to that year's smash, "Hard Knock Life." Now that 15 years have passed, it's easier to appreciate Hov's contribution to the track. He gives a nod to Juvie's approach, co-opts it with his own cool story, and the rest is history. —Ernest Baker

12. Timbaland's "Give It to Me" Remix (2007)

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Best Line: "I'm laughing all the way to the top/200 milli in cash, 35 milli in stock"

It doesn't seem like people remember, but Timbaland was, like, low-key the hottest rapper out for the first bit of 2007, before Kanye started dropping tracks from Graduation. Yes, we were all listening to the new albums from Clipse, Young Jeezy, Nas, and some of us even still had Hov's Kingdom Come in rotation, but Timbaland was that dude at No. 1 on the charts. And God does he flex about that fact all over this song. Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, two artists who Timbo had also produced No. 1 songs for within the past year, featured on the original, but the remix was all about Hov.

Jay-Z and Timbaland had already proven themselves to be a frequent combination for heat, and nothing had changed. Jay really floats all over this, rapping things like, "I Diddy bop like Diddy back when Biggie cock eyes hypnotized the masses behind Versace glasses." How can you not enjoy that? —Ernest Baker

11. Saigon's "Come On Baby" Remix (2007)

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Best Line: "Matter fact, I don't give a fuck where you rate me/Record labels told me, "No"—guess what the fuck they made me?"

New York rap was in a weird, but awesome, place in 2007. People like Saigon had songs out that Jay-Z wanted to rap on. The beat was in that vocal sample style so popular in the mid-Aughts (think "I'm a Hustla" or "Bring 'Em Out")—beats that were du jour at the time, but almost cringeworthy now. Jay-Z skates over the beat nonetheless, comparing his flow to the "Cuban Missile Crisis" and asking the Internet, "Don't you hate me?" It's a worthwhile listen, even if the original version is a distant memory. —Ernest Baker

10. Talib Kweli's "Get By" Remix (2003)

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9. Missy Elliott's "One Minute Man" Remix (2001)

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Best Line: "I'm trying to give you cabfare and directions/Get your independent ass out of here—question?"

Wow. That's all you can say about this verse now. Not even in a Stan-ish, "Hov is the greatest of all time" way, either. It's simply that, this dude raps about how he doesn't give a fuck about being a one minute man because he doesn't love these hoes anyway. Then there's the post-sex kicker: "Get your independent ass out of here—question?" It's a play on the Destiny's Child hit, "Independent Woman," and little did we know at the time, Jay would go on to marry the woman who sang the lyric. Long gone are the days when when Hov was kicking chicks out of the crib after 15 minutes, but this verse is a stellar reminder of how heartless he used to be. —Ernest Baker

8. Young Jeezy's "Go Crazy" Remix (2005)

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Best Line: "Attract money, my worst color is light green/My favorite hue is Jay-Z Blue"

For a brief moment in time, Jay-Z literally had his own patented color. Young Jeezy was owning summer 2005, and his boss, Jay-Z, wanted to rap on one of his songs. What resulted was an update to the dope boy anthem that had Hov waxing poetic about the possibilities of what someone can achieve, even if they come from the streets. Getting Chrysler and General Motors to consider producing vehicles in your own patented color, for example. The "Go Crazy" remix was Jay basking in the glow of that immense moment, with, for good measure, a reminder that a decade prior he still had "Cris' in a speedboat." —Ernest Baker

7. Panjabi MC's "Beware" Remix (2003)

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Best Line: I'm on my 8th summer, still hot—Young's the Eight Wonder"

In late 2002, Panjabi MC re-released his bhangra hit, "Mundian to Bach Ke." The following summer, Jay-Z remixed it with "Beware," originally billed as "Beware of the Boys." On it, he flexes about his international exploits and longevity in the rap game. Most importantly, he showed that there was no bounds on the type of beats he could tackle. It was truly weird to hear Hov going off over this instrumental 10 years ago, and it still strikes an excellent balance between left-field and completely familiar. You can bet that it's the only song of the sort on a lot of people's iPods. —Ernest Baker

6. Rick Ross' "Hustlin'" Remix (2006)

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Best Line: "I'm in the air, I don't hear niggas corny raps"

This was huge. Cam'ron had been dissing Jay-Z all year, mocking his age, his preference for chancleta sandals, and the like. Jay-Z was "back," as in, really, truly pretty much done with that retirement thing, and the "Hustlin" remix was his chance to respond. A remix of "Hustlin" already mattered because it was Def Jam artist (Jay-Z was president at the time) Rick Ross' smash debut, but you also had Hov directly confronting the criticism of his casual footwear: "We don't resort to violence, we on resorts and islands/With linen shorts and shades, 'case they thought you was lying." We love Killa, and "You Gotta Love It" was hilarious and necessary, but this Jay verse was the TKO, if only because it made every point Cam was standing on irrelevant. This shit is chess, not checkers. —Ernest Baker

5. dead prez's "Hell Yeah" Remix (2004)

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Best Line: "I'm only trying to show you how black niggas live/But you don't want your little ones acting like this"

It's awesome when Jay-Z flosses about how much money he has, because he does it in a slick, aspirational way, but it's especially dope to hear dude offer social commentary—the type of raps he's spit on some songs like "Where I'm From" and "Renegade." This "(Pimp The System)" version of the revolutionary dead prez cut has Hov going into detail about how he's harassed as a black man in the suburbs, despite his music's influence on "Lil Joey" and "Billy." It's great, and it's not preachy because the flow is butter smooth; it's one of Jay-Z's best and most honest verses. —Ernest Baker

4. Joe Budden's "Pump It Up" Remix (2003)

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Best Line: "Who's the nicest, life or lifeless, on these mic devices, and I don't write this"

Jay-Z rapped over "Pump It Up" on his S. Carter Collection mixtape. The freestyle was blended with Joe Budden's original for a widely-distributed remix version that no one really objected to. What's ironic is that, despite Jay rapping, "I ain't talking to nobody in particular," many people took the track to be shots at Joe Budden, who, after his debut, was receiving comparisons to Jay-Z. So, for Jay-Z to assert himself as the Michael Jordan of rap and compare a nameless "worthless fella" to Jordan-compared wash-ups like Harold Miner seemed like a diss. To boot, Jay-Z was coming out and calling himself the greatest rapper ever—even better than "lifeless" ones, 2Pac and Biggie. He picked the right verse to do it with. —Ernest Baker

3. Mya's "Best of Me" Remix (2000)

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2. R. Kelly's "Fiesta" Remix (2001)

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Best Line: "Niggas don't get the picture 'til the weapons is drawn"

This song is generally amazing, with the production and R. Kelly's brilliance accounting a significant part of that, and we know Jay-Z starts the remix off with a hell of a verse, but there's only one thing in particular that's necessary to talk about here: "Niggas don't get the picture 'til the weapons is drawn." It's one of Hov's greatest and most imitated wordplay moments. It immortalizes the song, his verse, and in a way, his legacy as an artist.

It's a lot of weight to place on one lyric, but if you're really about this rap shit, you know what it meant to see Hov on TV, with the Gucci visor flipped up, spitting lyrics that made you think—lyrics that you saw dudes debating about on hip-hop message boards. Sometimes it's the little moments like that that matter more than how much stock you have in a basketball team. Plus, the "Fiesta" remix is just fire. You don't even have to dissect Jay's verse to understand that. —Ernest Baker

1. Kanye West's "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" Remix (2005)

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Best Line: "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man"

Kanye once rapped: "On that 'Diamonds' remix, I swore I spazzed/Then big brother came through and kicked my ass." That about sums it up. There's a mythology surrounding Jay-Z's verse here that can't be beaten. He said, "Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week." He said, "I sold kilos of coke, I'm guessing I can sell CDs." He even said, "Bleek can be one hit away his whole career, as long as I'm alive he's a millionaire/And even if I die, he's in my will somewhere." The whole thing is front-to-back quotables. When you think about epic Jay-Z verses, ones like this are what comes to mind. It's the obvious choice for his best remix verse for a reason. —Ernest Baker

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